Xunantunich: How To Get There Without A Guide (Local Tips)

Updated 5 min read
tall mayan ruin belize
Jump to section

Xunantunich is easily accessible by bus, taxi and car.

I'll show you how to get there from San Ignacio which is a good home base.

$5USD

Entrance Fee

8AM - 5PM

Opening Hours

How to get to Xunantunich from San Ignacio

To get to Xunantunich, take a short 25-minute car ride west towards Benque Viejo and stop at San Jose Succotz. From there, take the short ferry ride over the Mopan river and hike up for a mile towards the entrance.

Most locals visit the Mayan Ruin via shared taxi which makes for a local experience.

  1. Shared Taxi - how the locals get there
  2. Public Bus - cheapest with local experience
  3. Car Rental - allows the most flexibility
  4. Hitchhiking - fun and extra local experience

1. By shared taxi

$1.50USD

Per Person

  1. From San Ignacio, take a shared taxi (colectivo) in front of Martha's Guesthouse crossroads for $1.50 USD ($3.00 BZD) per person. This goes towards the Guatemalan Border. Before entering the taxi, tell the driver you are going to Xunantunich.
  2. You will know you have arrived when you see the river on the right side of the road, you'll see the big brown sign labeled Xunantunich Archeological Reserve along with the ferry that looks like a floating house.
  3. Take the short man-operated ferry to cross to the Mayan Ruin Site (No Fee).
  4. Walk for 1 mile (1.5 km) uphill towards the Mayan site which takes around 25 minutes. Watch birds and iguanas on the way till you arrive at the entrance.

2. By public bus

$1.00USD

Per Person

  1. From San Ignacio, take a bus from C.W.C Bus Stop found beside the Cayo Welcome Center. Bus arrive hourly.
  2. Wait for a bus labeled as BENQUE, go in the bus and tell the driver you are stopping at Xunantunich. After being seated, the conductor will charge you $1.00 USD ($2.00 BZD).
  3. Be ready to exit after seeing the river on the right side of the road. You'll see the big brown sign labeled Xunantunich Archeological Reserve along with the ferry that looks like a floating house.
  4. Take the short man-operated ferry to cross to the Mayan Ruin Site (No Fee).
  5. Walk for 1 mile (1.5 km) uphill towards the Mayan site which takes around 25 minutes. Watch birds and iguanas on the way till you arrive at the entrance.
bus with benque label
Photo of Benque Bus that passes Xunantunich before arriving Benque

3. By car

  1. From San Ignacio, drive towards San Jose Succotz and stop upon seeing the Xunantunich Archeological Reserve sign.
  2. Park your car and wait for instructions from the ferry operators. The ferry transfers up to four cars in one trip and takes a couple of minutes to transfer you across the river.
  3. Upon parking on the ferry, the operator will ask all passengers to exit the vehicle except the driver. Now, enjoy the slow ride across the green-blue waters of the Mopan River.
  4. After crossing the river, wait for the operator to give you the green light, and exit the ferry.
  5. Follow the Xunantunich Road and ride one mile upwards, towards the Archeological site.
  6. The entrance will be properly labeled, and you can proceed to the parking area and buy your ticket at the booth.

4. By hitchhiking

  1. From San Ignacio, make your way towards Kontiki Service Station (roughly 30 mins walk from center of town) which is the last gas station in town that also happens to have a speed bump nearby.
  2. Look out for pickup trucks which have a high probability of giving you a ride.
  3. Play the waiting game and have fun getting a ride and enjoy the conversation on the way to the second-largest ruin in Belize.
french guy hitchhiking behind pickup
Photo of backpacker hitchhiking to Xunantunich

Reasons To Visit Xunantunich

  • it has a beautiful half hour drive through scenic road leading up to the ferry entrance.
  • you get to cross a small river on a short hand-cranked ferry ride.
  • if going without a car, you get to hike up a pleasant 1 mile (1.5 km) trail upwards that's perfect for bird-watching.
  • a special hidden trail is available for those looking to go bird-watching; ask the park rangers at ticket booth.
  • the tallest structure called "El Castillo" is the second-highest building in Belize and makes for stunning photos.
  • there's a breathtaking 360 degree view from the top of El Castillo with a glimpse of the Guatemalan border (0.6 miles/1km away)
  • possibility of seeing howler monkeys jumping around the trees and hearing them growl like dinosaurs
el castillo mayan ruin
Photo of El Castillo ruin at Xunantunich
small structure below el castillo
Photo of view from the top of El Castillo
ferry crossing at xunantunich belize
Photo of Xunantunich ferry crossing by Barking Fox Farm
man operating hand-cranked ferry
Photo of man operating ferry by Brandon Rosenblum

Add Cahal Pech To Your Day Trip

Xunantunich & Cahal Pech make for a perfect day trip. Both sites offer a unique experience and are easily accessible from San Ignacio.

$5USD

Entrance Fee

6AM - 6PM

Opening Hours

Reasons To Visit Cahal Pech

  • only 30 mins away by foot from the center of San Ignacio (C.W.C Bus Stop).
  • the Mayan site feels like a mini Mayan City with complex mazes that are fun to explore.
  • during early mornings, late evenings or when the site is empty, you can see wildlife like the agouti.
  • trees grow wildly throughout the site and even sprout out of the well-preserved temples.
  • the huge trees growing throughout the site provide shade almost like a canopy which is perfect for the harsh midday sun.
mayan ruin mossy rock with women in background
Photo of mossy rocks at Cahal Pech
rodent like animal in belize
Photo of agouti occasionally spotted at Cahal Pech

Getting to Cahal Pech

Cahal Pech is even more accessible than Xunantunich since it is within San Ignacio Town. You can go by taxi, car, or even by foot. The last block to the archeological site has a steep 3 minute walk uphill — almost 45 degrees — which can suck if you have bad knees.

Xunantunich vs Cahal Pech

Both ruins are open 365 days a year.

General InformationXunantunichCahal Pech
Entrance Fee$5.00 USD per person$5.00 USD per person
Recommended Time2 Hours1 Hour
Tallest Structure130ft (40m) tall77ft (23.5m) tall
View from topGuatemalan borderJust the site itself
How old is it?1000 BC to 250 AD1200 B.C.
What does it mean?Stone maidenPlace of ticks
PronunciationSHOO·NAN·TUN·NITCHKA·HAL·PETCH
Distance from town40 min drive (12.2km)20 mins walk (1.6km)
Ways to get thereBy bus, taxi, carBy taxi, car, walking

Quick History Lesson

What does Xunantunich mean?

Xunantunich means Stone Maiden. It is told that a maiden appeared one night, more than a century ago, but quickly dissolved into the stone of El Castillo (Structure A-6) leaving only her memory and now a name for this ancient city.

What was the population at Xunantunich?

Archeologists believe Xunantunich, like many other sites, was an ancient city. It was not a large city and had a population of 7,000 to 10,000 people living within a radius of 1.86 miles (3 km) from the site center.

What does Cahal Pech mean?

The name of the site means Place of Ticks in the Yucatec Mayan language which was coined in the 1950's when the area around the site was used for to graze animals.

What was the population at Cahal Pech?

During the Late Classic period, it is estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 people lived in the city and its' periphery during the time. The majority being farmers in the periphery and a smaller number of elites living in the site center.

This site is proudly ad-free which means bias-free opinions & suggestions. Your kind support helps keep it running.

Donate

FAQs

What should I bring?

Bring enough water, good sunscreen and a decent pair of shoes.

Can you go to Xunantunich without a guide?

Yes, a guide is absolutely not mandatory. If a resort or hotel is telling you this is mandatory, this is false information.

Where can I find a guide?

If you need a guide, wait till you arrive at the entrance of the ferry in San Jose Succotz to book one.

Can I drive to Xunantunich?

Yes, the road is paved and there are clear signs marking the entrance of the compound. Be wary of speed bumps; we rarely label those in Belize.

What time does the ferry operate?

Ferry opening hours are between 7:30 AM and 4:00 PM. But don't worry, the ferry operators will wait for you if they notice visitors that checked in haven't checked out but be wary of the time.

Do I need to tip the ferry operator?

No, it is not required. They are paid by the government and the entrance is inclusive of the short ferry transfer.

Where can I eat nearby?

You can try Xunantunich Restaurant & Cafe or Benny's Kitchen which are both a few blocks away from the Xunantunich entrance.

Resources

  • Niche Belize

  • Xunantunich Information Center